12 April 2002

Fresh AOCs can be a big help for starters

By Andrew Shirley

AGRICULTURAL occupancy conditions do have their advantages, according to one land agent, despite their unpopularity with many farmers.

The restrictive ties are a source of irritation to affected owners, principally because burdened properties tend to sell at a discount of up to 30% of their vacant possession value. But Alex Rew, of West Country agent Stags, reckons that fresh AOCs can play an important role in helping potential farmers take their first steps within the industry.

"It is often difficult to get a foot on the farming ladder, tenancies are hard to come by and high residential values put many farms out of reach."

Although Mr Rew says planning authorities are getting tougher when appraising applications after past cases of abuse, he says there is still scope to create a new farm from a block of bare land. However, proof of the financial viability of any proposed scheme will be required which could take some time.

"You might need to be prepared to spend 3-5 years living in a mobile home on the site before permission is given. It is a process that requires commitment."

For those prepared to tough it out, Stags is currently offering a number of suitable blocks of land in Cornwall. Trendrean Farm, near Newquay, is valued at £375,000, and features over 12,000 sq ft of buildings with most of the 185 acres of land arable aided.

A 91-acre parcel of land at Boscastle on the Cornish coast already has planning consent for a new dwelling. Guided at £280,000-300,000, almost 70 acres are IACS-registered.

If dealing with the planning authorities seems too daunting but value is still of prime concern, a 96-acre stock farm with a recently built tied dwelling is available from Cornish and Devonian specialist Kivells for £425,000.

South Furze Farm, Shebbear, Devon, could certainly appeal to somebody looking for a starter unit, believes chartered surveyor David Kivell. "People will not be forced to lock up a lot of their money in an untied house with a high residential value."

Featuring a four-bedroomed house, the layout of the stock units newly constructed buildings were specifically designed by owner Theresa Miller, off to pastures new in Canada, to allow easy operation by just one person.

Away from the south-west, Henry &#42 Bletsoe &Son has an agriculturally tied property in Cambridgeshire on offer. But, due to the shortage of recently launched farms, selling agent Nicola Clayton-Bailey is hoping the restriction will not impact on the selling price too drastically, if at all.

Honeyhill Farm, near Kimbolton, is being guided at £800,000 and includes a 1995 four-bedroomed house set in 172 acres of Grade 2/3 arable land.

Although solicitors are often cautious when advising prospective purchasers interested in buying tied properties, Mrs Clayton-Bailey says there are ways to for non-farming buyers to possibly satisfy the AOC. "A contract farming arrangement could be set up in the name of one half of a couple if it will be his or her principal source of income." &#42